Interview with Sir Craig Reedie: “The integrity of Olympic competition is at risk”

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By Andrew Harbison, CA Today

23 May 2016

Reports of doping allegations have dominated the headlines in recent months, with entire Olympic sports teams and high profile tennis stars coming under investigation.

The question sporting authorities are now asking themselves is how can sport clean up its act and restore faith in fair competion after these scandals?

This is one of the many issues that Sir Craig Reedie, President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), will be discussing at the ICAS event, Cleaning Up Global Sport, in Glasgow on 14 June.

Andrew Harbison caught up with Sir Craig while he was in Canada to discuss ethics, culture and Rio 2016.

In the wake of recent high profile athletes being embroiled in doping allegations, and the revelations last November of large scale doping among the Russian Olympic team, how can sporting bodies restore public confidence in fair competition?

There have been continued and even more damaging allegations regarding Russia and the Sochi Winter Games. The integrity of Olympic competition is at risk. All stakeholders must apply policies of transparency, honesty and responsibility in the build up to the Rio Olympic Games.

Is there a lack of ethical leadership in sport?

The revelations from the Report of the WADA Independent Commission regarding the conduct of senior officers and officials in the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) must mean that every sporting organisation should have ethics and proper ethical standards at the heart of everything they do.

This will range from decisions to implement all principles of good governance to detailed regulations and practices in the organisation of events.

What do you think the finance world can learn from the world of sports in terms of ethics?

Recently the learnings must involve a warning of what can go wrong if ethical standards are ignored. Any diminution of proper standards threatens the reputation of any organisation - financial or otherwise.

How important would you say it is to have tailored ethics programmes across all industries?

Sporting organisations have been encouraged to establish proper independent ethics commissions. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has had one since 2000 and encourages its member organisations to do the same.

WADA has one but this operates almost entirely in the area of ethical behaviour and responsibility in the application system and conduct of grants for anti-doping research. These could be useful examples of practical ethical applications.

Improving rules, regulations and checks is one thing, but how do you go about changing a culture of unethical behaviour within a certain sport or country?

Changing culture simply takes time - and good people. At present WADA is involved in the issue of non-compliance of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) and this will take time.

Adherence to international regulations is the easy bit. An acceptance that there has to be change in a previous culture is the difficult bit. Sport can lead but in many countries government support will be necessary.

You have enjoyed a long career within sports administration. What would you say are the moments you are proudest of, or that you would class as a career highlight?

Sport is a fascinating hobby and I have been involved in many great occasions. Narrowing this down must include negotiating the successful inclusion of my sport of badminton into the Olympic programme as a highlight.

Then, of course, the successful bidding for and the marvellous organisation of the 2012 Olympic Games was a real highlight.

What advice would you give young CAs who aspire to follow a similar career path to your own?

Sport has become a major industry over recent years with enormous investments in events, television, media and sponsorship. All of these and the correct handling of them present challenges to the responsible International or National Sports Federation.

There are lots of interesting career opportunities which require the skills of the accountancy profession, perhaps presented in a different way from the traditional.

Sir Craig Reedie will be speaking at the ICAS event, Cleaning Up Global Sport, in Glasgow on 14 June.

Image credit: lazyllama /


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